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Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance
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Author:  KWhitehead [ Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

I am working on some fixes that would hopefully make the Overland Campaign playable starting with the first scenario in it on the Wilderness. Since it looks like it will require significant modifications to the scenario victory conditions and the quality of the Union forces, I thought I would make sure that others consider it a problem and would consider playing modified scenarios.

My experience has been that the Rebel player can only stay in the game by withdrawing to a map corner and entrenching. Any attempt at an up front battle leads to their army be surrounded and wiped out to the last man. The Rebel against aggressive Union players can run up the score on the first day so that they can win the battle but the second day is still usually spent running from the enemy which in my opinion doesn't make a game. The people I have played with me as the Union to see what the Union can do have all used the hide in a corner tactic which keeps them from losing but again it isn't much of a game. I would like to see the battle fought along the two roads as it was historically.

Later scenarios in the Campaign have similar problems. The overwhelming Union force leaves the Rebel player with no choice but to hide in a corner somewhere with flanks anchored on edge of map or rivers. Cold Harbor is the only exception since the Rebels start holding such a position.

Back when the only games were Battleground it was easy to spot these balance problems since you could produce a pretty good win/lose report from the records data.

So first, are you finding the Wilderness scenario that is the first one in the Overland Linear Campaign balanced?

For the Rebel side do find you can defend Saunder's Field and Parker's Store?
Has any one won a game while still holding these two areas?

For the Union side have you found any opponents willing to play the campaign?
How has the Wilderness scenario turned out for you?

Since the changes will significantly shift the game balance away from the Union, it brings up an obvious question:
Would Union players be willing to play a campaign after it was rebalanced?

For those of you who think the scenario is balanced would you be willing to put it to the test and play me?
You would have to be willing to at least attempt to fight for the two main objectives (Saunders Field and Parkers Store) since I already agreed the Rebel can win at least a marginal victory by fighting for a little while to get the easy kills and then retreating to a defensible position near the map edge.
I would have to be Union because I think they are unbeatable.
The scenario is in the Campaign folder under the name Will_A1.

I would also like to know if anyone is currently playing this scenario and what they are seeing.

Author:  mihalik [ Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Hi, General,

Sorry I can't help you with this one, but just wanted to agree that play balance doesn't seem to have been a priority in designing the scenarios.

I am currently playing a Bermuda scenario where I am expected to attack Ben Butler's 32,000 men including 98 guns with 25,000 Rebs with 62 guns.

And after Ben's men have had ample opportunity to dig in.

I recommend use of the scenario editor if you wish to play most of the scenarios in this one.

Author:  ken jones [ Sun Jan 25, 2015 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

I can't speak directly to the scenarios mentioned here because I did not design the scenario. But, one has to realize that Grant and the Union had at least a 2-1 numerical superiority at the beginning of the campaign -- especially since Longstreet's Corps historically doesn't show until the battle is half over. Therefore, it is very difficult to design a balanced scenario where the match-up is so unbalanced. The Wilderness and Butler's scenarios were historical -- it only serves to illustrate the challenge faced by Lee and the ANV.

If you want to design a balanced scenario then by all means feel free -- that is what the editor is for. But unless you really play around with the casualty values and the objective values, then I think you would face the same problems given the historical OOBs.

Remember, in these games Lee doesn't have the element of surprise and concealment that he enjoyed in 1864. The other player is bound to know the historical setup.

There are other more balanced scenarios in the game -- north anna and to cold harbor come to mind for army-sized actions -- but you won't find a historical scenario that is balanced in the way that you would like.


Author:  mihalik [ Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Hi, Ken,

Everything you say is correct as relates to the actual Overland scenarios.

If historically the Union army had 120,000 men in action against 60,000 Rebs in the Wilderness, that is the historical scenario.

I take issue with the Butler scenarios though; not with the strengths, but with the victory conditions and objectives.

Case in point is the one I'm currently playing where the scenario states Butler is finally moving toward Drewry's Bluff. Well, no he isn't, because he controls an objective in his rear more valuable than Drewry's Bluff and is practically assured of a minor victory if he holds it.

If the objective values were reversed, Butler would then have motivation to attack Drewry's Bluff, and it would be a pretty good scenario.

In the other Butler scenarios, the Yank gets victory points for exiting his units toward Richmond. But he can get the same points for retreating off the map.

So it is the victory points and objectives that unbalances these scenarios, not the forces involved.

These scenarios were designed by John.

I appreciate you weighing in though.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

My point is that Lee did almost destroy the Union army in the Wilderness but in the game scenario if the Rebel attempts to fight along the two roads as Lee did, the reverse will happen. Not only will Lee lose but I believe I could wipe out the entire ANV if a player attempts to fight on those roads into the second day.

I know a way to fix that but if no one is interested in playing a modified campaign game then there is no reason to spend any time doing it. Which is why I posed the question.

Author:  old banshee [ Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

from someone who has done a lot of mods on these titles (not scenarios I may add) would be to go ahead and do your scenario it will give you much pleasure designing it and offering it to the club members. I have spent more time modding than playing these games so I have got out of them a lot more than I bargained for when I bought the games.
Your experience knowledge will make a great scenario so go for it.
All the best,

Author:  C. Hecht [ Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Personally I still wait for some basic fixes on Overland. ... php?t=5517

But I also would suggest to go ahead, the many scenario variants simply provide something for any taste.
I'm curious where you see the problem, is it the Union/Confederate quality, terrain, victory conditions, etc.?
Interesting would be with what rule setup these were tested as a different setup can very well shift the balance.
At least I saw a shift when switching to Manual Defensive Fire, what simply gives the defender a much better chance of holding back the attacker like it historically was.

Now when talking about the Wilderness, I worked through Campaign Shiloh and the Battle of Shiloh itself can maybe not very well be simulated in this game, all the problems that happened in these 2 days there are very hard or impossible to recreate, maybe that is also true for the Wilderness.
So before any scenario design is done it is very important to determine what exactly the problem is and how it is to solve.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

The Wilderness in particular and the Spotsylvania scenario that follow it have some unique problems. Because the VP value of the objective hexes are so low along with the ability of the ANV to fight the AoP in a stand up battle, the best tactic for the Southern side is to skirmish for a little while when it has a numeric advantage to see if it can run up some VP then withdraw to a section of the map where it can anchor its flanks on the map edge or creeks and dig in. At least in most other HPS games the two sides fight on the intended battlefield.

Simply increasing the objective hex VP value won't solve the problem because I don't think the ANV can survive trying to fight a head on battle. Which is why I asked to see if anyone had done that successfully. My observation is that once the Union side realizes it doesn't need to attack prepared positions. That their overwhelming manpower allows them to extend their flanks until the ANV is surrounded before pressing the attack. They will always win the scenario decisively. Which means the Overland Campaign is unplayable.

But so far I still don't see the interest in changing it.

Author:  ken jones [ Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Possible alternate scenarios:

1. One should shorten the scenario length and fight the battle in separate days. Day 1 would give the Rebels the early advantage; Day 2 would find the Rebels hard pressed with Longstreet arriving; Day 3 would find the armies entrenched as historical and let the players decide what strategy to employ. This approach would offer 3 scenarios -- instead of one big multi day battle -- that could be balanced with objectives values.

2. Expand the size of the battlefield so that the Rebels have room to fall back in the face of the Union's numbers. This would allow them to give ground and then defend the old Mine Run entrenchments. What would Grant do when faced with Lee in a strong defensive position? Probably march away to Richmond.

3. Play with fixed units to simulate the uncertainty about where Lee's army was located and where he intended to strike. Historically, Burnside was late and slow and the forces on the Brock Road were frozen on day 1 because no one knew where Longstreet was. Personally, I don't like fixed units.

Also, one should remember that to achieve balance, the ANV has mostly high quality units vs. dummied-down quality units for the Union. As long as the Rebels can avoid being flanked, they should be able to stand toe-to-toe with Yankee battle lines and give more than they get. At least that has been my experience.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

I know how to fix the scenario but it takes much more severe changes than mentioned. The question is does anyone agree there is a problem and want a fix? And since the fix comes with severe reduction in capacity of the Union forces, will Union players be willing to play the changed scenarios?

And, if anyone really thinks the scenario is balanced as is and the Rebel army is strong enough as is to even defend Saunder's Field and Parker's store much less achieve what Lee did, almost taking the Brock road, I challenge you to a game where the only change will be increasing these two VP hexes to 1000 pts so they must be fought for.

Author:  C. Hecht [ Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Personally I always at first go through the scenario list to find those scenario that depicts the historical situation and course of the battle in the best way.
So if that doesn't work with the current Overland scenarios I very welcome any attempt to shift them closer to history because that's what these games are about, placing the player in the same historical situation and let him face the same challenges but of course this time leave it to him how he wants to solve the battle.

Now if the Union can simply wrap itself around the Confederates why didn't Grant do it?

Author:  Tom Moore [ Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance


I have designed a scenario based on Overland scenario #118( Lee reinforced). In the modified scenario I assume Lee moves toward the Wilderness a day early with the ANV is entering the map as the Union army approaches the Rapidan River. I also use pdt file # 5 which reduces stacking to 800 and reduces weapons effectiveness by 50%. These 2 changes should give Lee a decent chance of stopping the Yankees from getting out of the Wilderness which is the South's chief objective. Also the scenario is lengthened by one day.

I think this modified scenario achieves a more balanced game while keeping without altering the historical situation to drastically. The idea of a casualty budget of 10k and 18k. could also be useful.

Author:  ken jones [ Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

I don't think that Lee had any reasonable chance of taking the Brock Road intersection --historically speaking. On the first day, the Confederates could have taken the intersection simply by arriving an hour earlier... but I don't know if they could have held it long given the dispositions of the forces. On the second day, following Longstreet's Flank Attack, the Rebels had a better chance but this was only the result of Longstreet's attack and the rout of most of the Yankee line. If Longstreet wasn't wounded and his attack was pressed to the Brock road, then the Rebels may have been able to take and hold the crossroads. But that is another "what-if" scenario and not the historical Wilderness battle.

We confronted a number of challenges in designing a scenario in the Wilderness: (1) the combatants were fighting "blind" -- they didn't know where the enemy was or in what strength. How can you replicate this in a game where players have historical knowledge and can study the scenario? (2) Given the thick understory of trees and the swampy terrain, how many men can be stacked in a hex? I believe that we used different pdt files to adjust -- some scenarios limited the stacking to 800 men rather than 1000; (3) How can we get the veterans of the ANV to stand their ground despite odds? We dealt with this by determining unit quality based on combat experience -- hence most of the Rebel units are high rated while the Union units are of lower quality even though they proved to be as tough as the Rebs when the fighting started; (4) Fixed units... we could have fixed the fighting to Saunders Field,etc. by fixing many of the Union's units. This would mimic the uncertainty experienced by the North's generals -- they didn't know where Lee was coming from and thus held back many units that were available. But the general approach to the Campaign scenarios was to allow the players a free hand in fighting the battle -- hence we really didn't expect the battle to "look" historical; (5) Fire Effectiveness -- we thought we got this right with the penalties for forested terrains and trenches. Try causing casaulties among troops entrenched in the woods. You'll see a lot of "no effect" results.

My suggestions for balancing the scenario is to enlarge the playing area slightly; encourage trench building by making it faster; and reducing the scenario length. This should come closer to producing a stalemate -- if that's what you're looking for.

Author:  KWhitehead [ Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

Unfortunately, you can't fix this through using a special scenario. The scenario "Wild_Axx" is the first scenario in the Linear Campaign. If it isn't made playable then the whole campaign is unplayable. It actually isn't difficult to fix although a lot of testing is need to verify the fixes are balanced and twink them if they aren't.

But the question still is does anyone want it fixed? Especially on the Northern side since the changes will be severe for them? If players on both sides aren't willing to play an adjusted scenario there is no point to publishing one.

Here are the changes that force the battle in "Wild_A1" to follow a more historical course; that is, an actual fight in the Wilderness not elsewhere:

1. VP values along the two roads are increased substantially forcing the two sides to hold and take these roads to win. These values are on the order of 500 and 1000 for key spots like around Saunder's Field, Parker's Store, and the Brock Road. Neither side can win by not fighting for these VP hexes.

2. The whole Union army is down graded one quality level. This make the ANV regiments able to stand up and fight head on the Union army. Union player will have to bring to bear his whole army to offset this advantage if he wants to win. Justification for this is very subjective but the fact are the ANV was much better motivated force than the AoP and did fight them to a standstill and even drive them while out numbered 2:1.

3. The VP value of casualties is no longer equal. Rebel losses are worth twice as much VP to the Union as Union losses are to the Rebels. This reflects the fact that the ANV couldn't really afford to lose man for man with the larger Union army. It also offsets change 2 by adding a serious expense for head on attacking.

4. One of the Union cavalry divisions are fixed though out the battle. This was done to reflect the poor use of cavalry in the battle by the Union.

5. The map has been extended southward a few miles to include the roads that Longstreet used. I did this so Longstreet couldn't be blocked by the Union and the Rebel couldn't use the entry hexes to disrupt the Union forces down there either.

6. The route zone around entry hexes is extended up to ten hexes to prevent camping them. Especially Longstreet's. Also increased night movement penalties.

These rules assume all the options are also on. I haven't tested to see how things change between Turn and Phased play.

So far they have the effect intended. In my test game with my brother (I am Union) he has pushed the Union forces back from both Sauder's Field and Parker's Store. To far I believe on the Orange Turnpike since he is getting to close to the VI Corps. On the Plank Road he is half way to the Brock Road intersection but isn't pressing on. Apparently decided he need to clean up the center area first since only one brigade blocks him from reaching the Brock Road. Victory wise the Union still is winning and surprisingly causing almost equal casualties in spite of the down grade.

Author:  ken jones [ Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilderness Scenario of Overland Campaign - Balance

But when playing a campaign game, the Rebels don't really have to wreck their army... the Rebels can simply fight the first day and then put in a termination bid; accept a defeat and move on to Spotsylvania. :cry:

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